Mr. M. Balmer

It’s uncomfortable to think about one’s own mortality.  However, there are moments in our lives when the subject is unavoidable.  I had one of those moments last weekend at Silver Dollar City, in Branson, Missouri.

No, the “moment” didn’t happen on the death spiral of a roller-coaster, nor did it come by way of heat exhaustion from the blazing temperatures.  This life-shaking moment came as I stepped off a main pedestrian thoroughfare to consult a map of the theme park.  A terse voice surprised me, “What … are you looking for?”

I looked up to see a neatly dressed undertaker, complete with measuring rod and top hat.  He was eyeing me intently.

Slightly startled by this “character,” I tried to collect my thoughts.  I looked around for Angie, who I noticed was keeping a healthy distance from us.  I stammered a bit, but finally managed a, “I might have forgotten where I was going.”  Without missing a beat the perfectly serious undertaker quipped, “I wonder why?”

Another glance over at Angie, and she was clearly a couple of steps further away than last time.  I was going to have to handle this on my own.

Ah, yes!  The glassblower!  I remembered we were going to see the glassblower.  I proudly shook off my “flusteration,” and told the undertaker, “We are looking for the Glassblower.”

“Now listen carefully,” he said in a hushed tone after leaning in toward me.  “Go down this street.  Take the first major right.  Follow it.  At the end of that street, you will find the glassblower.”

Finally regaining my composure, I thanked the undertaker for his help.  He reached into his coat pocket and withdrew a small piece of paper.  “Here’s my card… in case you need my services… at a later date….”  After a quick nod at both myself and Angie, he turned and walked away.

He’s right – I will need his services at a later date, but today I simply enjoyed the moment.

A maze-ing

CALLAWAY CO., MO, – Against tough opposition and seemingly unending waves of corn, we came out victorious against this year’s Shryocks Callaway Farms Corn Maze, shattering our personal record in the process. Our completion time of one hour and twelve minutes marks the first time we’ve completed the maze in under two hours.

Our plan of attack this year was simple. We allowed each team-members’ strengths to shine: her, with her intuitive nature and tendency to pick up on non-maze specific details like, “There’s a lot of talking coming from that direction…I’ll bet there’s a checkpoint there.” Me with my methodical mapping of every corn corridor we traversed. We kept our focus, stuck to our game plan, and immensely enjoyed the afternoon together until we reached all the checkpoints. Then we picked out a pumpkin together and basked in our accomplishment into the evening. Together, the totality of our victory exceeded the sum of our individual contributions.

Ballpark

Growing up watching baseball games with my dad was fantastic fun. I knew all the players well then; I collected their cards. We groaned at all the mistakes they made on the field, cheered at all their successes, and chewed over ideas on what they needed to do to go all the way.

Those rare occasions when we actually got to go to the ballpark to watch a game together were among the absolute greatest memories I have as a child. Even in the inexpensive seats, there is an excitement that just doesn’t translate to TV. The cheers, the smell of the food, the fabulous fountains and scoreboard – very few experiences can compare. Transistor radio in my ear, I was an expert with inside knowledge of the game that I periodically shared with my dad. Of course, he would tell me something every bit as profound and relevant, without the radio in his ear.

Everything I’ve done with baseball, from my card collection as a child to my sim league team that I still manage today, is a direct result of this shared enjoyment of a father and son.

Now, of course, I’m married and I’m taking my wife to a Sunday afternoon game. As is often is the case, she’s being quite troublesome. First of all, she’s wearing the colors of our rival team. And she’s cheering them on. At least there are no boos. I hate boos – on both sides.

But after that jarring beginning, we settle into a kind of groove. We savor some nachos, and some chips, fried on the spot, with bleu cheese, bacon, and I’m not sure what else. Delicious! We watch the game. We talk about the plays. We are surprised by the number of foul balls that sail into the stands close to us. We smile at the new and improved scoreboard as it does amazing things. We appreciate nice weather and the cool afternoon breeze blowing in our face. We have a ball together!

We took some pictures, panoramas of the new stadium renovations, the new plaza areas in the outfield (that we explored until they kicked us out), and pictures of the statues of the players my dad and I used to watch play,

I can’t wait to show the pictures to Dad and tell him all about the game!

Why would I be mad?

I’ve made a startling discovery, but what I’ve learned might help some of you newer husbands or boyfriends out there.

Men’s Dictionary

why-would-I-be-mad : interrogative, 1. attempt to elicit a reason another party thinks you’re mad; 2. expression of surprise at a perceived dissatisfaction; declarative, 3. attempt of reassurance that you are not mad; 4. dismissal of the idea that you are mad; syn. don’t worry, we’re cool.

Women’s Dictionary

why-would-I-be-mad : declarative, 1. confirmation the woman is, in fact, mad; interrogative, 2. a pop quiz for the other party to identify what they did to make you mad, usually involving a penalty for supplying the wrong answer; 3. a signal to prepare an apology; syn you’ve really done it this time, the doghouse is that way.

The Proposal

proposalAfter jotting down some notes in Angie’s file, after recommending she drink lots of Gatorade (for the electrolytes), after she explained about how sick she’s been after last week’s recess duty in close to one hundred degree weather on a shadeless blacktop playground … after all that, our doctor looked at us and smiled.  “My wife and I just saw a movie I think you two would really like.  It’s called The Proposal.”

I’d seen the trailers before.  Kind of a “chick flick,” I had thought at the time.  Not that I was being dismissive; there are many “chick flicks” I have enjoyed watching.  Fifty First Dates was good fun.  The Legally Blonde movies were entertaining as they gleefully poked fun at the legal profession.  Come to think of it, when I used the word “chick flick,” I really meant “date movie.”  A “chick flick” is something you’d see on the Lifetime network or Oxygen.  Date movie is a much better description of what I’m talking about, and is more inclusive of great comedy-action movies like The Princess Bride and The Incredibles.   Continue reading The Proposal

Star Trek

startrek

I’ve always liked Star Trek, so I guess you can call me a “trekkie,” but I’m not a “dress up like an alien and go to a convention” kind of trekkie. In fact, I really only like the original series, though there are certain isolated episodes of the subsequent shows I have enjoyed. As a whole, the newer ones tend to be more arrogant and preachy in tone. They “tell” while the original episode “showed.”

I guess this gives me an unusual perspective on the new movie. While I found it entertaining, it felt disconnected from the original series it was supposed to connect to. The characters were all a little off, and without supplying any spoilers, I suppose there is a good reason built into the story for that. Still, taken by itself, it was an entertaining movie, and I’d have to give it my recommendation. The less you are attached to the original series, the more you will like this one, I think.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop

mallcopOkay, so this movie isn’t going to sweep the Oscars.  In fact, it could be described as silly fun.  But sometimes you want nothing more from a movie but a comedic escape.  If that’s what you’re looking for, check out Paul Blart:  Mall Cop.

I’ve been a fan of Kevin James’s work for awhile.  From his role on television’s King of Queens to his hilarious dance lesson from Wil Smith in Hitch, James never fails to deliver the laughs – especially when the comedy is physical.  There’s no shortage of physical comedy in Mall Cop, but, as is typical of James’s work, the story also has a heartwarming side.  It’s at its heart, Mall Cop is the story of an underdog being thrust into a seemingly impossible situation and rising to the occasion.

In short, where a lot of today’s movie comedy is sarcastic and mean-spirited, this movie is a good, light-hearted alternative.  Angie and I got a kick out of it.

Gran Torino

grantorino

Movies are something my dad and I have shared for many years now.   When I went away to grad school, I would not only come home every Saturday to watch the latest HBO premier movie, but I would bring back tapes I had recorded from my residence hall’s closed circuit movie channel – movies that weren’t even on regular cable yet.   Each week, I’d bring home half a dozen or so of them, and then Dad and I would make a pizza and enjoy the Saturday HBO premiere.

I’ve also shared some good movies with Dad at the theater.  One of the best was Apollo 13.   That’s one movie that just isn’t the same on the small screen.  Conspiracy Theory was also good fun, and there have been many others.

We had meant to see the new James Bond movie in the theater, Quantum of Solace.   We enjoyed the last one so well on DVD, and we thought it would be a perfect movie to see at the theater with all its action.  But unfortunately, it left our local theater before we had a chance to see it.   We were bummed about it until we saw that Gran Torino was coming out.  We were able to catch that one.

Gran Torino was good.  Tragic and heroic in its quiet, yet explosive kind of way.   It was really enjoyable.   But the real fun of movies is sharing them with someone, like your best girl, your dad, or in this case: both!

Zombie Fluxx

zombie“So, what are the rules to this game?”

“Each player draws one card and plays one card on their turn.”

That sounded simple enough. Of course, I neglected to ask how you win the game. Even had that occurred to me, there would have been no answer to that question. The game goals are defined by the cards played. That’s right, the conditions for winning are fluid. Some cards you play have you do one time actions like draw multiple cards or steal cards from another player. And even the core rules can change by the playing of rule cards.

It was a fun evening of games and visiting: a first “couples date,” so to speak with our new friends. Now, the question is, how do you follow up a game like Zombie Fluxx? Killer Bunnies, anyone?